Confessions of a Porn-Addicted Priest

“Forgive me. I have sinned.” I’ve always counted it a privilege to hear these words, to offer forgiveness. But for years, it was tainted with self-recrimination: You’re a hypocrite. Indeed, who was I to forgive or offer counsel, when I struggled with sin that I myself refused to confess because I couldn’t give it up and wasn’t sure I wanted to? Now, I have a confession to make.

It began during seminary, scanning photo galleries of models and actresses that I was attracted to. It seemed harmless, no threat to my celibate commitment. I took that promise seriously. I had no illusions that it would be easy, and it wasn’t. This might take the edge off, I thought.

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I had no fears about its effects on my everyday life. I maintained proper boundaries in my work. I was especially vigilant when I was aware of my attraction to someone. I stayed away from sexually suggestive comments, and never flirted or acted inappropriately. I was the model of propriety, even as my browsing turned from the scantily clad to the unclothed.

My busyness seemed like a grace. Studies, ministry and social life always took priority over my explorations in the developing world of online pornography. Keeping my commitments, I reasoned, would ensure it remained a harmless diversion. My self-deception continued, unconfronted.

More Than a Distraction

During a stressful summer assignment in an unfamiliar city, it became more frequent. I was overworked. I spent a lot of time alone. I had no friends nearby. Increasingly, my companion became my computer—a means of escape and an endless supply of new and provocative images. My answer to stress. When people asked what I did for fun, I struggled to find an answer. Even the occasional night out with friends ended in the loneliness of my room.

My summer work struggles were chalked up to unreasonable expectations. Ironically, there was some worry that I was watching too much TV. I was convinced that I had handled the work to the best of my ability. Overwork had led to the increase in my pornography use, not vice versa. I told myself still had my priorities straight.

When people asked what I did for fun, I struggled to find an answer. Even the occasional night out with friends ended in the loneliness of my room.

My next assignments were more balanced. Porn went back to being a distraction. But the increased frequency had carried over, as had my need for novelty. Videos replaced still images as my preferred medium. I quickly found myself immersed in and uncomfortably conversant with the adult film world. But there was no conversing. I was living that life alone, in secret, carefully separated from the real life that I was involved in and loving most hours of most days. One mitigating grace was that my conscience forbade me to involve someone else in my alternative life. I remained just a spectator, pretending, not connecting.

Soon I was a newly ordained priest. Despite my enthusiasm for my new duties and identity, my habit continued. I could blame it again on stress, but I wondered now if it was more problematic, even if it wasn’t interfering with my ministry. I wondered if people saw something amiss, especially when I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. If they noticed, they no doubt imagined it had more to do with too much enthusiasm from a young priest than with clandestine hours spent on porn. For my part, I was amazed at the ways in which God was able to use me to serve and inspire people in my ministry, even while this breach in our relationship remained. This consciousness of God’s mercy helped alleviate the guilt, but also contributed to the illusion that things might still be O.K. God had not abandoned me to pastoral disaster.

When a penitent’s sexual temptations came up when hearing confessions, I would offer advice once given to me. Know your limits. Can you watch an R-rated sex scene untroubled? Or is that too much for you? When it comes to porn, when are your defenses down? At night? In your bedroom? Can you have a computer in your room? Or do you need to keep it somewhere else? I could hardly tell them that I was struggling myself and not taking my own advice. I became somewhat jealous of these penitents. They were confessing what I could not. I was aware of my sin. But I was equally aware that I didn’t intend to stop.

Guilt and shame were often conspicuously absent, except when the nightmares came. Vivid dreams of getting caught woke me from my slumber. I felt the pain of disappointing those closest to me. Several times these had caused me to stop, at least for a while. After the most devastating of these dreams, I thought maybe I’d reached my limit. It featured one of my dearest friends, one of the greatest supporters of my journey to priesthood. She saw the good things I didn’t see in myself. Sometimes her love for me, her enthusiasm about my vocation, was painful. If she only knew the truth. In the dream, I was discovered. She couldn’t bring herself to believe it, but I couldn’t lie. It’s all true, I admitted. I have a problem with porn. I felt more ashamed than I ever had in real life. I had let her believe I was somebody else. The sense of loss was overwhelming. I never wanted to feel that pain for real. As I purged my computer, I thought this might be enough to end this once and for all.

I was aware of my sin. But I was equally aware that I didn’t intend to stop.

The fact that it didn’t finally made me consider the possibility that I was addicted. Though I was still hiding it well, I started to be more compulsive and less careful. I took fewer precautions—unlocked doors, less secure networks. Deep down, I think, I wanted to get caught. If asked directly if I was looking at porn, I would have told the truth. But I was too scared to take the initiative and confess.

While all this was happening, I had started work on a graduate degree. All I had left was the thesis. The writing was going slowly. Pastoral opportunities were easily distracting. But were they distracting me from writing, or from watching porn? Outside of ministry, both were probably getting equal time. It was suggested that moving somewhere else might help me focus. I agreed, and hoped it would. If I could just get past the thesis, things might get better.

But things only got worse. Sidelined as a “priest in residence,” with no regular pastoral duties, I found myself lonely, isolated and disconnected. I had no friends. The other priests were busy and afraid of distracting me from my work. And despite my loneliness, I treated any time spent socially as a trade-off against the writing I was supposed to be doing. This only isolated me further. I slept a lot. I watched too much TV. Viewing porn became a regular part of my day. I enjoyed opportunities to go out and celebrate Mass sometimes. But then it was “back to writing,” which I was doing less and less. I’d never experienced depression, but I knew enough to recognize the signs. I started seeing a therapist. It might have helped, except I never mentioned the porn.

Asking for Help

I hadn’t hit “rock bottom,” but I was on my way. I tried a prayer exercise that I’d once learned. If I were to die today, I prayed, am I who I would want to be? The answer was an unequivocal no. I realized that even a less isolated environment would not fix the underlying problem. Things were too far off track. I knew fellow priests who had gone to intensive therapy programs, and found one that I thought could help me. Now I just had to find the freedom to ask for help.

My internal struggle continued. Then, one day, the words of a song at Mass moved my heart. Let your gentleness be known. Do not worry. Reach out to God in prayer. The peace of God will be with you. An invitation to transparency. I resolved then to ask for help. I talked to a friend the next day, so as not to lose my nerve. I asked for permission to go to the therapy program, mentioning only the depression. But then there were forms to fill out, and there I told the whole story, porn and all. Sharing my secret, I began to feel free.

The words of a song at Mass moved my heart. Let your gentleness be known. Do not worry. Reach out to God in prayer.

It was hard enough to tell family and friends that I was depressed and leaving town. I said nothing about the porn. Depression they could accept. I wasn’t sure about the rest. Still, one friend I told the whole story to was unfazed. “It’s not as shocking as you think,” she insisted. She’s probably right; but still, I’ve told only a few people everything.

I started attending 12-step meetings for people with similar addictions. I wasn’t sure I fit in. Sometimes, I’m still not sure. I felt that most people there had gone further, and suffered more, than I had. I wasn’t sure if I was an addict, but I was deeply moved by the way they confessed their addictions and the effects on their lives, what might cause them to relapse and what they were doing—staying connected with fellow sufferers and supporters—to stay sober and not be controlled by lust. All the conventional wisdom of our sex-obsessed culture, what people were or were not capable of, and what was “normal,” was thrown out the window. I discovered a room full of people trying, and many succeeding, at keeping a commitment to remain chaste, as I had promised to.

Did it really matter that I hadn’t gone as far as they had? A friend, a longtime recovering alcoholic, told me that she, too, had felt at first that she didn’t fit in. She hadn’t hit rock bottom either. “But one day I realized,” she said, “that no matter how I got there, I was just as screwed up as the rest of them.” My fears that others might think my issues insignificant or suspect I was still in denial somehow were pointless. I could only be honest about my own situation, and trust others to help and support me.

The First Step Forward

It helped when I was asked to do a “first step,” a narrative of how my addiction had progressed. It gave me a clear sense of how my life had become unmanageable. Maybe differently than others’ lives, but unmanageable nonetheless. I was congratulated for my courage, but I felt uncomfortable receiving praise for sharing something I was ashamed of. Another priest said, “It makes me angry to see someone as gifted as you are fall victim to such a great evil.” This moved me deeply, both the affirmation of my worth and his characterization of pornography as an evil. I suddenly knew he was right. It is an evil, more than I ever realized.

I was congratulated for my courage, but I felt uncomfortable receiving praise for sharing something I was ashamed of.

Recognizing porn as an evil has changed the way I approach it in confession. I no longer think of viewing porn as harmless, or inevitable. It can be stopped, by recognizing its power and asking for help. I respond more mercifully than before, and from a place of greater strength. Outside of the confessional, I’ve also resolved to help others overcome this evil in their lives. I’m still not certain how to go about this, but I hope this article is a start.

As for my own confession, the chance to return fully to the sacrament was one of the things I most looked forward to. I said as much when I began my treatment. Still, I put it off for a while. I think I wanted more time sober, to be sure of my resolve. But as I let my gentleness be known, especially to myself, and offered my sins to God, I knew the only surety was God’s love and mercy. That, I decided, was more than enough.

The week that I revealed my addiction was also when I stopped, I hope for good. One year later, through the grace of God and the help of others, and with some surprise, I’ve experienced no relapse. I have my share of temptations, but the isolation of addiction has now been replaced by circles of support that, thankfully, it would take great effort to free myself from. Sometimes when I am tempted, I make a phone call. Sometimes I just go looking for someone to talk to. I might talk about my temptations (with those who know about my addiction), or I might just talk about anything. That connection with another human being is crucial for me, and not just when it comes to my addiction. Sometimes I have to force myself to make a call, even though I’d rather deal with the struggle on my own. Other times, I imagine myself surrounded by all those to whom I’ve become accountable. If I relapsed, I would have to tell them.

And, while I know they would be far less disappointed than I would be, I don’t want to fail them, or God. I also don’t want to go there again. I didn’t like who I was. My life isn’t perfect now, but it’s better. My prayer life and my relationship with God are the best they’ve been in a long time. I’m surrounded by people who I let care for me as much as I care for them. I’m free. And I can sit on both sides of the confessional feeling less of a fraud, enjoying God’s merciful grace for me—the sinner and the addict.

Read "Create in Me a Clean Heart," the U.S. bishop's pastoral response to pornography.

Resources for people seeking help:

Sexaholics Anonymous

Fight the New Drug

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Richard Booth
7 months ago

First, I want to congratulate you on the difficult work of dealing with your addictive process. I use the word "process" because an addiction, or a tendency to return to an addiction, sometimes takes a lifetime to keep at bay. This is all the more true of people whose personalities have a predisposition to become addicted, if not to this, then to that. An addiction is never "conquered," as most addicts come to realize. But, even a short time of taking control of it can be a monumental personal success. As a psychotherapist, I do not perceive addictions as sins, as I suspect you do. I see them as powerful challenges to our personal agency, integrity, and ego strength. There is always an unfulfilled need (or cluster of needs) that lies beneath an addiction. The key is discovering it, bringing it to consciousness, and dissembling it. I wish you well.

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Brother John,

It is not for me to tell you there is a problem or for me to tell you there is not, but I can tell you to stop beating yourself up over it. You have a female friend. “It’s not as shocking as you think,” she insisted. She's right and she might have been softening the blow, believing that the only framework available to you as a priest was to cast this in the light of sin and addiction.

Interest in erotica is virtually universal in young men, to the point that many health professionals, including me, a physician, worry that those *not* interested are at greater risk for anxiety, stress reactions, phobias, misogyny and even violence directed against women as well as tortured existences, blaming themselves for anything and everything, sex related or not.

You apparently experienced some of those feelings despite your normal interest in erotica and I suspect that was due to the external imposition of a different view of normative attitude and behavior deemed by the Church necessary for the formation of the celibate priesthood. You experienced, among other things, cognitive dissonance which is a condition that can literally make people mentally ill and sap their emotional and intellectual reserves, getting in the way of productive work, attention to social relationships, work, and finishing their thesis.

You might think I am about to launch into a denial of your addiction and a criticism of celibacy as well as a celebration of porn, but I'm not. I'm telling you there is unlikely to be anything wrong with you personally, you were more likely a victim of circumstances. . Your woman friend was probably telling you "it was not shocking at all" and has no relationship to your fitness as a priest. The biggest problem here is you became distracted from your goals, fell into a malaise, let yourself down because you weren't achieving, and then felt guilty about all of it.

If there was sin at all, it was minimalist sin, but there were definitely consequences for you and they sound like the Fifth Circle of Hell. How priests manage celibacy is a mystery to me but I respect them and since it is a requirement for the position, I suggest you either ask them or perhaps do some reading on the subject. You cannot go forward in the belief that you have committed egregious sin and are possessed by an "addiction." If you do, you are less like to understand and be able to counsel the men and women, especially young men and women, who will seek your advice and understanding. They *like* sex, or at least should, and a good many of them like erotica and porn as well. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it does not harm others and they don't allow it to distract them from their obligations. The same applies to you.

Finally, don't torture yourself over this. Women are beautiful in many ways and one of them is in their nakedness which "is a gift from God." (I think Rumi wrote that.) Truthfully, I don't think porn has as much merit as figurative art, athletic competition, dance, fine photography and literature, especially if those things are performed or created by women. So go to the museum, the ballet or modern dance, galleries and poetry readings. The truth is, the beauty of women is what will save you from obsessive thoughts about them. They are beautiful in many ways, all of which you can celebrate.

Richard Booth
7 months ago

In my view, your comments distort what the writer is attempting to say. You trivialize what he considers grave matter and even tell him that, "if there was sin at all, it was minimalist sin." And you know this how? I can only hope you are not responding as a professional in this field or in theology, but merely as an opinion-writer. If you are responding as more than that, you are way off scientifically and theologically. You caution the young man that he is not unusual and, in some ways, he is not. However, for a priest, these matters weigh heavily. He wants to rid himself of the addiction at the very least. He needs to make himself feel better, less preoccupied, and happier without the "monkey on his back" by continued effort and practice avoiding circumstances that render him vulnerable. And he knows this. He has said as much. Your cliches and generalizations are not helpful.

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Richard, thank you for your comment; I do appreciate the dialogue and I mean that sincerely. But...I can't tell how many times I've heard it before.

I proudly proclaim that as a man, husband, father, physician, scholar and student of addiction starting with a 1971 short course at the Yale Drug Dependence Institute, I am happy to debunk the guilt ridden theories of "sexual addiction" and sin that torture men and women and which, more than coincidentally, provide a steady stream of income for therapists, self-proclaimed and otherwise. Presumably, that is not you, but I do ask you to examine yourself and your school of psychotherapy to see if there may be any hints of self-interest in riding the guilt and sin train of never ending temptation, addiction and ongoing therapy.

Of course Fr. Smith wants to feel better; we all do. What or who made him feel bad to begin with? And how would you therapize him? Validate his conflict and guilt about nude photos of women? Assure him that he is forgiven if only he goes to confession and continues in lifelong treatment?

I like my method much better; I agree with his woman friend who said it's not really that big a deal and I told him that appreciating *all* the beauties of womanhood was a better way to do away with obsession. I refer you to Carl Rogers, a true giant in your field, who once remarked that a true friend can be the best therapist.

Then there is the 800lb gorilla in the room--the teaching of the Church that priests must be celibate and what's more, deny their sexuality. I choose not to address that here, but I have doubts as to its wisdom. My interest today is in helping Fr. Smith and others similarly situated.

The fact is, I respect the sacrifices of our priests, celibacy being one I can barely comprehend, second only to obedience, the two of which explain why I don't have the *cojones* to be a Jesuit. I love young men--I have six sons--and as I age, I admire their strength and courage while fearing for their tenderness and the brutality many institutions are willing to visit upon them in the name of sin, virtue, obedience and pretty much any emotionally fraught part of human existence, which, come to think of it, covers almost everything. It does not include radiant beauty of women, giving, loving, nurturing, life affirming, wise and yes, sometimes naked. Those are good things.

Sincerely,

Dominic Deus

Richard Booth
7 months ago

Dominic...most of the work I have done in this area has been teaching sexuality, practicing psychotherapy, running an addictions program, and pro bono work with others who have come to me. As a scientist and therapist, I am ethically obliged to remain non-judgmentally neutral with respect to what you call the "gorilla in the room." However, I can say that celibacy, per se, does not cause sexual or any other kind of addiction. For some, celibacy is very difficult; for others, not as challenging. What I am concerned about is the person who is writing about his situation here - a situation which I will not dissect on the internet. BTW, Rogers is a major name in the Phenomenological School of Psychology, and I am not sure what he said about a friend is entirely untrue, but it requires qualification. I will finish by saying that I understand what you are saying about the possible emotional counterparts of addictions, but the priest in question wants, for his own reasons, to be rid of the burden he carries. Check out the first link he lists which, I assume, is of some help to him.

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Richard,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I join in agreement that celibacy, per se, does not cause sexual addiction. You already know I am skeptical such a thing exists but I agree with you anyway ;-) I would add that I do not think celibacy per se causes pedophilia and in addition to having great admiration for the celibate priesthood, I note that I was celibate for eight years after the untimely death of my first wife and though I found it difficult, it did not corrupt me any more than I already was. I like to think it made me a better person, maybe. Possibly. Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

You are also entirely right in refocusing concern on Fr. Smith, his situation and his courage in writing about that. Any disagreements I have with the methodology and of diagnosis and treatment of "sexual addiction " or whether that entity exists at all is, in some ways, irrelevant. As Dr. William Mayo was fond of saying, "The interests of the patient are not the primary interests; they are the only interests." If Fr Smith is doing well, I am happy for him. For his sake as well as for the consideration of others similarly situated, I simply want them to know there is a guilt free option and a positive light in which to see all the qualities of women.

As to the Church, celibacy and questions of sexuality, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and the Council of the Baptized, both lay organizations in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, are hard at work developing a proposal for a Synodal meeting of clergy and faithful to discuss those issues and others. I have to write something intelligent for that so I'd best move on.

Best Wishes,

Dominic Deus

Mike Houlihan
7 months ago

There are so many things for which I wish to commend Father Smith: his candor, his contrition, his resolve, his determination to share what he has learned with other addicts, his recognition of his complete dependence on God. (He recognized that his life had become unmanageable.) Therefore, I hope that if he is reading these comments, he will consider my observation as an attempt to make a constructive suggestion about his recovery work.

Fr. Smith: Several times, you name your addiction to pornography as evil -- but you do not describe the evil; you do not say what is evil about it. We can infer that you recognize the harm your addiction was causing in your personal life -- your health and interpersonal relationships; in your spiritual life -- in the 'cognitive dissonance described by another commenter; in your professional life, both as a minister and a student. But absent from the essay (perhaps not absent from your understanding of the evil of pornography) is an acknowledgement of the victimization and exploitation of the "actors" (women, men, maybe children -- or so-called "barely legal"?) This is evil.

You write: "One mitigating grace was that my conscience forbade me to involve someone else in my alternative life. I remained just a spectator, pretending, not connecting." While I take your meaning, I suggest that you are wrong: you inserted yourself into a fantasy world -- but that world was inhabited by flesh and blood human beings, and you objectified them, sexualized them, exploited them for your own pleasure. This is evil.

Fr. Smith, thank you for this essay. I will remember you in my prayers. As you continue your work in recovery, you will be thinking about making amends to those who have been harmed by your addiction. Don't forget the persons you were gawking at, fantasizing about, objectifying. May God who began this good work in you bring it to completion!

Goodwins B
7 months ago

Courageous article. Pornography is truly an evil that requires confronting. Although 12-step programs can help, they have a high relapse rate. One program that is based upon true principles but very different than 12-step programs is in the book Power Over Pornography. It assists pornography viewers in dealing with temptations in a healthy manner and is quite successful in helping hardened porn addicts stop viewing. I recommend it.

Bruce Snowden
7 months ago

Hi Father Smith,

You are our hero but I can hear your disclaimer, “No way!” In his sexual addiction St. Augustine prayed, “Lord, make me chaste but not yet!” I believe this was your prayer too, unknown at the time, but valiantly desired through it all. In God’s own way and in God’s own time you got it, because you did your part!

I was addicted once too, not to porn, but to alcohol, but only as Sherry wine of all things! The time frame multi-decades ago, newly married, responsible at the time for my wife and a toddler. I was a quiet drinker, not even those around me recognized the problem, went to work regularly, did my Church privileges like regular Mass, confession too, but never confessing whatever degree of sin there might have been in that Sherry bottle I so cherished! I also prayed for deliverance from my addiction seeing the potential of destruction to my newly forming family. I prayed the rosary for help.

One night near midnight as I walked along a Bronx, NY street heading home, upset at myself for the nasty imprisoning addiction, I made an unplanned, anguished plea to St. Padre Pio for help, asking for deliverance from the addiction to Sherry. Suddenly an indescribable fragrance surrounded me, not oppressive, inescapable and making me wish it would never end, very calming and mystifying. I thought maybe someone had used an air freshener and some had drifted to the sidewalk through an open window. But the fragrance being experienced was not an artificial sent like an air freshener, but more like walking through a rose garden. I checked but saw no open window. Then I checked the sidewalk shrubbery for blooms, forgetting it was winter and of course the plant life was brittle and unflowered. As quickly as it came the fragrance ended leaving me in a tranquil mood, whereas before I had felt angry at myself!

In a few minutes I was home and as was my habit after kissing my wife I peeped into the bedroom where our little son was asleep. Once again the fragrance returned but very briefly. I went to the kitchen with my wife and uncharacteristically I asked for a cup of tea. My habit was to start guzzling wine, but I discovered I had developed an absolute abhorrence for Sherry wine and couldn’t stand the smell, even the bottle in the refrigerator disgusted me so I dumped it down the drain. From that night of fragrance on the Bronx sidewalk to this day there has been no relapse into my addiction. I learned later the Church has a name for that fragrance – “Heavenly Aroma” and Padre Pio has a history of using that Grace as God answers his intercessory prayer.

It is interesting to note that I got exactly what I prayed for – deliverance from addiction to Sherry wine, learning later that at family celebrations, or at a restaurant for dinner, I can drink wine without compulsion, take it, or leave it, perfectly free to enjoy a glass of wine with absolutely no addictive effect. But Sherry wine, I still abhor it! Based on my experience I would not discount prayer as a helpful way to overcome any addiction. God is an Equal Opportunity Provider, so it doesn’t have to be Padre Pio, any saint is the right choice. A Faith-motivated psychotherapist is also a great instrument in God’s hand! God has blessed you, Father Smith. Pray for us.

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Bruce, I am at the end of my commentary wits but I feel I have to jump in here and commend you for recognizing that sherry is a horrible excuse for anything, even alcohol problems. I'm not in any way suggesting that you try a better form of liquor like Irish whiskey. I'm saying I cannot ever recall a good experience involving sherry and there have been several disgusting ones. I was fifteen at the time so I get a partial pass I think, but I've never touched sherry since. Ironically, that is the age of Augustine when his discovered his interest in his father's servant girls. He was probably a little hard on himself but he did take advantage of his position. (I have his Confessions next to my chair in the library.)

--Dominic

Bruce Snowden
7 months ago

Hi Dominic, No Irish Whiskey please, just never got gripped by the whiskey "demon!" There is, of course, a proper place in life for the moderate cheer of Irish Whiskey, accent the word MODERATE! Sherry was my devil, once an attractive bit of excrement, but what an addictive stench it left! Sorry for your "disgusting encounters" with Sherry, praised the Lord only memories now! But through it all let's not forget that alcohol fermentation is a Gift from God, given as Scripture says "to make the heart of man happy!" Jesus used it at Cana, probably taking a glass at Cana and also as Sacrament on the night before he died. - does anyone not toast with a glass of wine at a Jewish wedding? I think it was to Noah that God taught the fermentation process, but didn't tell him how to use the resulting drink. Interestingly Noah learned how to limit the use of alcohol, by. getting drunk accidentally. My Sherry addiction is long past but my "addiction" to words remain, so I'd better do something about that by "interventional conclusion," to which you may be saying, "Thank the Lord!"

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Bruce, you are a gentleman and scholar. I need to read more about Noah and fermentation. Apparently, he and I share the experience of getting drunk "accidentally", at least that was my story. My father said, "Go to school anyway." As I write, my wife is off in the wild taking one of our grandchildren dogsledding. I am here with the dog and the Irish whiskey but chose to have a chocolate malt instead. I am powerless in the face of chocolate.

Best Wishes to you.

Dominic

Bruce Snowden
6 months 4 weeks ago

Hi Dominic, Just read your response to my response to your response, well, something like that and want to say thanks for the conversation.. You call me a gentleman and a scholar, well, gentleman yes, scholar no. As I love to say, I'm just an ordinary catholic layman who knows a little about many things, but not very much about anything, a perfect fit! Yeah, reflectively 98% sure Noah is the right source for my accidental drunk story, used by God as a learning device for him experiencing how to use alcohol. Drunk and naked on the ground one son laughed at his father's nakedness and another son respectfully covered him, interesting Biblical story. You're in good company liking chocolate, so did Teresa of Avila who once said, "God and chocolate are better than God alone!" A favorite Saint of mine. God bless you!

Dominic Deus
6 months 4 weeks ago

Wow, she said that??!! I'm going to get a Holy Card of her and put it on the fridge. Thank God for the wisdom of women. PAtL.

Bruce Snowden
6 months 4 weeks ago

Yes Doctor! Scanning your posts I see you're a physician, and like Jesus the Divine Physician, a healer. It's said, if you want to see the Hands of God, look at the hands of a Medical Doctor! I like to use that line in tribute to the MDs that look after my family, friends and me and now to you.

A lot of truth in that saying as from barks, berries, leaves, flowers, mineral matter and more, packaged miracles of healing in liquids and powders, are dispensed by physicians instrumental to healing and residual to the creative touch of God in nature, the Divine Healer leaving his fingerprints of health on all he touched. Some parts of material creation contain poisonous material, even deadly, deadly to humanity, but perhaps useful and life-sustaining to other animate or vegetative parts of creation? I don't know, but do believe that God works are good. He said so! I believe this! God bless you, Doctor.

Yes, Teresa of Avila was quite a woman, aware of her femininity and protective of it. One on a hilly Spanish mountain road she fell off the donkey on which she was riding hitting the ground hard. Teresa picked herself up and brushing dirt off the backside part of her Habit made the following indignant remark with a touch of attached humor, her femininity bruised (maybe something else too!) "My God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!" She said a lot of smart, humorous one liners like "From sad face saint O Lord, deliver me!" And she was also a great psychologist without even knowing it like the time she came to a convent on visitation and found the nuns depressed and withdrawn. So she pulled out a tambourine began its music and said to the sister, "Dance, be happy!" Soon the girls where shaking their hips and laughing. At 85 my problem is not failing to remember having read all this stuff about Teresa, but unable to remember exactly where. Anyhow have a SUPER day! By the way, what does PAtL Mean?

Dominic Deus
6 months 3 weeks ago

I am as mystified by the appearance of PAtL as you are. It could be the work of the Holy Spirit showing me that, at my age, (70) I should not be writing after midnight or in the morning before coffee. Many thanks for your kind words--I have been blessed to be an extension of the healing powers of Creation and am happy now, to sleep later, and offer what wisdom I can when I am awake. I wish to see the young,such as Fr.Smith, treated with kindness. Theirs is a difficult road to travel.
PAtl,

Dominic

SUSAN OLENSKI JLP MEd
7 months ago

A retired pastor re-upped to assist at my former parish. After knowing him over time and appreciating his open-heartedness a friend told me he approached "R.P" about a problem and was told: "I don't think God is as concerned about sex as we are." That was a graced moment and I trust the opinion of that holy man.
I know that the objectification of the people portrayed in porn is evil. But even if each "actor" was a free and willing participant his feeling of being a secret sinner means Fr. John needs therapy in some form.
Forgive my liberal perspective but I believe Fr. John's essay is as much of a miracle as Padre Pio's intervention.

Frederick Hill
7 months ago

Many thanks for sharing your story. As one who has lived with shame ("toxic"?). I am deeply touched by your transforming story; a story, I'm sure, that continues to be written. I hope your story will touch those who are hounded by shame to reach out for help; to hear the voice of loving-acceptance.

Philip Pocock
7 months ago

As a former psychologist with expertise in sexuality I have often pondered whether viewing pornography in a dtached manner is sinful. Obsessive behaviours which interfere with one's role in life ie hearing the voice of God or fearing God are leading one into sin clearly but are they addictions. Video game "addiction", which has killed people from exhaustion, are really obsessions. Although the initial arousal may be slightly addictive it is the psychological detachment that is the cause of the obsession.

In the case of pornography it would be the same unless it involved actual sex acts including masturbation etc which are both physically addicting and sinful in your situation. It is not clear whether you masturbate or just watch pornography but one is considerably more sinful than the other which is just a waste of time and energy but you have derived some positives even there seeing and understanding what many of your confessees want to discuss as aberrant sexuality is "the" problem in world today.

I have just republished a book on this that I wrote 30 years ago in defence of the family in regards to sexual conventions. I have done this in the light of the Royal Commission findings on Child Abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia. I could send you a PDF copy if I had an email address or you can buy it cheaply on Amazon.

Just search for 'philip+pocock+sexuality' on Amazon or 'THEORY ON THE FORMATION OF SOCIETY, SEXUALITY AND THE NEED FOR TRUTH'.

Just remember how kind God really is and that while there may be little harm in just viewing pornography it is because it provides "no" reward thst it propels viewers into the destructive sexual contained therein.

Sexual intercourse between a married man and woman is a tremendous good but pleasure is not the goal - rather a necessary distraction for functional sex resulting from original sin - but acceptable under the ethical "double effect" position.

Pornography takes certain acts and says these are also pleasurable so they are also good, when in fact everything, except heterosexual intercourse in a lifelong relationship, is, to a greater or lesser extent a perversion of the unitive and procreative function of sex and provides no lasting satisfaction at the psychological level.

Dominic Deus
7 months ago

Brother Phillip,

Just as a point of clarification, are you writing about or to Fr. Smith specifically or using this forum more broadly to discuss alternative views of pornography and sexuality? It's fine either way; I just want to respond but make it clear that I am not addressing Fr. Smith or making assumptions about his beliefs. This is, after all, a Jesuit sponsored forum and, true to the tradition, I want to engage and critique ideas, not persons and fully expect my writing to be questioned as well. I have a couple of questions and comments for you:

1. I like your distinction between addiction and obsession and your willingness to name some addictions merely obsessions, but I am concerned that you specifically name obsession as sin *per se.* Seems to me the consequence of obsession, like losing one's ability to support family and friends, emotionally or otherwise, is a sad circumstance but do we really want to freight the already afflicted soul with "sin" as well? What does that say about our failure to replace judgement with mercy--something Christ insists we do? There's a powerful suggestion of negative moral judgement in calling out someone's else's sin, one that Christians, physicians and psychotherapists should be reluctant to make.

2. I've never received anyone's sacramentall confession, so I'm a bit out of my field here but I suspect if a confessee advised me that " aberrant sexuality is 'the' problem in [the] world today," I would fall out the rear door of the confessional in a faint and upon recovering, cry out, "In the name of Jesus, brother, are you paying any attention to the war in Southern Sudan, the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming out of Syria, flood, famine, pestilence, and that other Horseman of the Apocalypse, climate change, the Seven Deadly Sins, the rise of neo-Fascism, Brexit and the Great British Baking Show????"

3. "Sexual intercourse between a married man and woman is a tremendous good but pleasure is not the goal - rather a necessary distraction for functional sex resulting from original sin - but acceptable under the ethical "double effect" position." What? WHAT? Please, please, please, don't ever write that again. You can but you shouldn't. It's just so wrong and so bad I don't even want to deconstruct it. I'll leave it at this:the future of the Catholic Church depends, in large part, on renouncing this idea. Full stop.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. I have a copy of Augustine's Confessions on the table next my chair in the library. He was a true Father of the Church but he just got some things very, very, wrong. I have conversations with him off and on. I call him Augie and he calls me by my author's name. I (Dominic Deus) am an avatar and actually have a very nice picture of myself from 500 years ago but the formatting of *America* doesn't allow for pictures--more's the pity. My author is not nearly as spiritual in appearance and he looks much older than I.

On the other hand, you have, in my opinion, got a lot of things right. Don't let anybody do your thinking for you, including Augustine.

Crystal Watson
6 months 4 weeks ago

I can't help thinking that the church's celibacy requirement tends to attract people with sexual problems. I may be naive but I wouldn't feel comfortable with a priest who was attracted to porn.

Henry George
6 months 3 weeks ago

We can all fall victim to addiction, it just takes the right addiction.

If nothing else, I would suggest that all Religious Orders and Bishops work hard to find a way to end the terrible loneliness that Religious/Priests/Nuns/Brothers can find themselves in.

It seems the last thing anyone serving God via their whole lives might ever admit is being lonely as if it were as bad as Original Sin.

Phil Tanny
6 months 2 weeks ago

Porn is not evil. Porn is a stimulant. All stimulants can be abused.

Thinking of one's self as being too holy for porn is a kind of stimulant too. Some people abuse this stimulant, some can't handle it and get carried away.

I had a friend who went wild with caffeine in those days when the specialty coffee shops first came on the scene. He would get so wound up he had trouble breathing even. He eventually recognized this was a stimulant he needed to stay clear of. But he never made the mistake of defining his particular personal problem as a universal maxim. He had the sense to not label coffee as evil in an attempt blame some external force for his own human weakness.

We all have these weaknesses. Some people, perhaps most, are addicted to talking, you can never shut them up. Myself, I'm addicted to typing, another form of the same malady. Everybody has something or another.

It seems odd to me to blame porn instead of the insane requirement of celibacy. It's as if the Church demanded you give up food or sleep for Jesus. There's really little difference. God designed our bodies to work in a particular manner. Arguing with God's design is a fool's errand.

All that typoholic blowharding sputtered forth in an addictive manner, I do wish you luck with your personal situation, however you may define it. I'm yelling at the principles involved here, and not you.

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